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Why you eat chocolate

By Tracy J Reck, Exercise & Nutrition Coach in Worcester

I gave a speech yesterday and one of the lines that most sticks out in my mind is: "Never take chocolate away from a stressed-out adult. They might bite you."

It was a bit of a throwaway line that jumped into my mind when talking about the ‘see-food’ diet. You know the one; where you see food and you eat it, even if you had no prior plans to do so. It happens every day in offices and homes up and down the country when someone brings in cakes/chocolate/crisps/wine (hopefully not into the office, that latter one) and you have munched your way through some food you had no intention of eating that day.

I was talking about how to shape the path to avoid this, by putting all the nom-nom foods into a place where you don’t see them as readily (seriously – if they’re on show in the kitchen, how much willpower do you waste trying to ignore them and forget they are there?).

But later on it got me thinking about the relationship we have with those foods we love, but also swear never to eat again on a regular basis. What role do they play in our lives? If you really consider it, what are you trying to make these foods do for you?

Food is supposed to be about energy, right? Fuel.

It’s also about pleasure, and it’s right and proper that it should be (yes, eating food because it’s nice is part of being a healthy eater. It’s important not to get that twisted).

But here are some things that chocolate, crisps, cake and wine CANNOT do for you.

They can’t make you less tired. Go have a nap instead. If you can’t because you’re in a meeting (where I know it is frowned upon), excuse yourself and do a two minute meditation instead. Then go nap as soon as you can.

They won’t make you less stressed. Only stress relieving behaviours, like walking, meditation, yoga, massage, taking action etc, can do that. I know, it’s a mad concept. But, you know it’s true. Because when was the last time that eating a raspberry muffin actually made any difference to what was stressing you out?

They will not solve any of your problems. Unless your problem is that you have just experienced a Dementor (the guards of Azkaban in Harry Potter). In that case, eat a chocolate frog with my blessing.

They won’t make you less bored. Well maybe they will, but only for the nano-second that you’re nommin’ on ‘em, and then, sadly, you’ll be back to writing a report about the economic factors that caused the demise of the carpet industry, or whatever.

These foods DO feature in a healthy diet. But they don’t work as a sticking plaster for problems that have their own fixes.

Tracy Reck is a fitness and nutrition writer, coach and speaker. You can read more from her at www.naturallyexuberant.co.uk